Rico Freimuth in action in the 110m hurdles, en route to winning the decathlon in Ratingen (© Gladys Chai von der Laage)
Germany’s leading decathletes and heptathletes will be hoping to impress on home soil at the Erdgas Mehrkampf-Meeting in Ratingen, an IAAF Combined Events Challenge meeting, on Saturday and Sunday (27-28).
The 2013 and 2014 decathlon winners Pascal Behrenbruch and Rico Freimuth return, the latter having also won the 2014 IAAF Combined Events Challenge. But Freimuth finished fourth in Gotzis at the end of May and the three men who finished in front of him are also in the Ratingen field.
Kai Kazmirek, the 2013 European under-23 champion, set what was then a world-leading tally of 8462 when winning in the Austrian town and was just nine points away from his personal best.
His German compatriot Michael Schrader, the world silver medallist, put together a score of 8415 for second place while South Africa’s Willem Coertzen produced an African record of 8398 but still had to settle for third place.
“I’m in as good shape as I was in Gotzis, maybe even a little better,” said Schrader, who hails from nearby Duisburg, on Thursday.
“I’m looking for good performances again in the pole vault and 400m, I want to be running in the 47s again,” he added, reflecting on the fact that he has a best of 47.66 in this discipline and ran 48.21 in Gotzis.
“The one event where there is room for improvement over Gotzis is the discus,” he added, well aware that there he was more than five metres down on his recent personal best of 47.19m.
“I basically never throw less than 45 metres in training so it was disappointing to only just throw over 42 metres in Gotzis.”
Coertzen looking for another continental record
Coertzen made no secret on Thursday of the fact he wants to become the first African decathlete to go over 8400 points. “And the German athletes should help push me,” said the man who only started in the sport at the age of 24, after first trying his hand at cricket and rugby.
Belgium’s Hans van Alphen struggled in Gotzis and finished down in 15th but the Belgian record-holder with 8519 from 2012, the year he won the IAAF Combined Events Challenge, will be looking to do much better in Ratingen and get back over 8000 points for the first time since his halcyon summer three years ago.
There will also be a lot of interest in the performance of Serbia’s talented two-time European under-23 medallist Mihail Dudas, who injured himself on the first day of the 2014 Gotzis meeting and didn’t compete again last year.
Dudas also pulled out of the Multistars meeting last month in the Italian city of Florence after just two events, and Ratingen offers him another chance to prove his fitness.
More of the same will satisfy Schwarzkopf
The heptathlon also has a strong contingent of Germans, including three-time winners Jennifer Oeser and Lilli Schwarzkopf, the latter taking the title last year after wins in 2007 and 2008.
Schwarzkopf had to cancel her planned outing at Gotzis last month due to an ill-timed bout of bronchitis and so has a point to prove in Ratingen.
"I'm hoping for a similarly good performance as last year," said the Olympic silver medallist, who won in 2014 with 6426.
Oeser won in Ulm last month with 6145 but the two-time World Championships medallist is still getting back to her best form after becoming a mother last year.
Both women will have to look out for the in-form Carolin Schaefer, who finished second in Gotzis with a personal best of 6547, a score better than anyone has achieved in Ratingen since the first edition in 1997 when Sabine Braun set the meeting record of 6787.
Claudia Rath is another German heptathlete who showed good form in Gotzis, the 2013 IAAF World Championships fourth-place finisher putting together the second-best total of her career with 6458 to finish seventh.
One place in front of Rath in Gotzis and also competing in Ratingen is arguably the best of the overseas athletes, the Netherlands' Anouk Vetter, the Dutchwoman getting no fewer than four individual personal best marks en route to an overall personal best total of 6458.
Phil Minshull for the IAAF